Flights Into Cambodia to Increase to 280,900 in 2023

Flights into Cambodia are expected to increase this year after the reopening of China and work underway to establish direct flights with Indonesia and Turkey
An airplane descent into Phnom Penh International Airport, September 6, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
An airplane descent into Phnom Penh International Airport, September 6, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Flights into Cambodia are expected to drastically increase this year, with hopes high routes with China will rise after Chinese New Year and more direct flights with Asian and European countries in the pipeline.

Sin Chanserivutha, spokesman for the Secretariat of State for Civil Aviation, told Kiripost on Friday that flights still face uncertainty this month after Cambodia welcomed Chinese visitors. However, with China scrapping its zero-Covid policy, flights between the nations are expected to increase steadily after the Chinese New Year.

“What we do not know is the number of flights, because the first flight has not yet arrived since January 8. The second is we see a tendency [for airlines] to request reservations, but we cannot count because reservations have not yet been made. It is not a specific indicator, we are waiting to see the application for landing permits,” he said.

He added that Cambodia welcomes Chinese flights and hopes that the relevant authorities will facilitate measures to open up to Chinese business people and tourists upon arrival in Cambodia.

In 2023, the number of passengers is expected to increase to 4.6 million and the number of flights will increase to 280,900.

Twenty-seven international airlines have reconnected flights, accounting for nearly 60 percent of 2019 flights to and from Cambodia.

The leading routes are Phnom Penh-Bangkok-Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh-Singapore-Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh-Kuala Lumpur-Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh-Saigon-Hanoi-Phnom Penh routes.

“Recently, it is expected that the route between China and Cambodia will be able to become a new leading route,” he said.

He clarified that in August 2022, Cambodia had 30 flights between China and Cambodia per week -a quota set by the Chinese side. This means Cambodia Airlines can fly to China 15 times a week and China Airlines can also make 15 flights to Cambodia weekly.

Chanserivutha added there are six Chinese airlines flying in and out of Cambodia from seven destinations.

After China announced the opening of the country from January 8, some Chinese tour companies have shown the trend of reconnecting flights. However, it is still uncertain as they have not yet applied for a specific parking permit.

A boost in tourists is also being pinned on the new plan of direct flights with Indonesia and Turkey this year.

On January 10, Cambodia and Indonesia announced the hope of a speedy resumption in direct flights between the two countries.

“On the economic front, the Deputy PM and the Ambassador noted with pleasure the increasing two-way trade volume and shared hope for the resumption soon of the direct flights between the two countries. They also discussed the possibility of the joining of Indonesia in Cambodia's various development projects, including on infrastructure,” a Ministry Foreign Affairs’ press release stated.

Chhay Sivlin, President of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said the upcoming reopening of direct flights between Cambodia and Indonesia will encourage Indonesian tourists to visit Cambodia.

“Indonesia is such a huge market​ for Cambodia [in tourism] because they have a lot of citizens. Moreover, Indonesians like to visit the cultural sites in Cambodia as well,” Sivling told Kiripost.

She added that without a direct flight, the route is expensive and time-consuming. Indonesian travelers who want to visit Cambodia have to spend overnight transferring in Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand.

Recently, Cambodia and Turkey officials discussed possibilities of creating a trade preference agreement between the two countries and looked at ways of connecting direct flights, aimed at reaching $1 billion bilateral trade.

Sivlin believes that the upcoming plan of creating direct flights between Cambodia and Turkey is a good start and beneficial for attracting higher-income Turkish tourists.

According to the World Bank, Turkey is one of the emerging seven countries and is classified as an upper-middle income country in terms of the country's per capita GDP. With a population of 84.6 million, as of 2021, Turkey is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles, transportation equipment, construction materials, consumer electronics and home appliances.

“We have never had a direct flight between Turkey and Cambodia before. Turkey is a high potential country because of the higher chance of Turkish tourists to travel more. Since most of them are financially high and their investments are also enormous. Therefore, to grab their investment, we need the availability of direct flights,” she said.

Previously, Cambodia has not received many Turkish tourists due to the flight connections. If this changes, she expects an increase in visitors from Turkey and further investments from the country.

According to international studies, the recovery of air traffic in Cambodia to 2019 levels will be achieved by the end of 2024 or early 2025, in line with the trend of recovery.

To promote sustainable growth, large-scale investment in modernization and strengthening of quality aviation infrastructure is required in the long run.